“Slots” of prizes and excitement in Vegas

slot_tournamentThe cordoned-off area of slot machines you might run into at a casino isn’t (exactly) a special VIP-only area. Nor is it a sign that the casino can’t afford walls anymore for its high-limits area.

That gathering is probably just a slot tournament taking place. Feel free to watch and marvel – or better yet, join in the next tournament.

In a tournament setting, you generally start with a set amount of credits and a time limit. The credits you earn as you play are tracked separately — you don’t get to play these as you win them, as you would at a regular slot machine.

Instead, these credits are tracked as your “points” in the tournament. The player with the most points at the end of play wins that round (or at the end of all rounds, the tournament).

When your credit count or time is up, the machine locks up and your score is logged (so be sure to mash on that “repeat bet” button in those last few minutes!) Then, if you are lucky enough, it’s time for the next round.

Slot tournaments run the gamut from free (daily at Main Street Station, Ellis Island, and others) to a modest entry fee ($20 at Excalibur later this month) to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” status – Bellagio is hosting a slot tournament in October with a $5,000 buy-in!

In some cases, like at El Cortez, slot tournament entry is awarded to club members who earn enough points on their member card during a set time period – in the El Cortez’s case: one day. There are also invitational slot tournaments for loyal players and high-rollers.

Prizes, likewise, range from “swag” items and dining freebies, to free play credit and cold, hard cash — this scales up with the particular tournament: The Bellagio’s Million Dollar Mystery tournament has $250,000 grand prizes, but the Excalibur’s modest $20 entry fee gets you a chance at winning a $1,000 grand prize (or free play, or buffets).

Upcoming Tournaments:

Monte Carlo: Jack-O-Lanterns and Jackpots Slot Tournament, Oct. 27-29. No buy-in listed.

ARIA: 2nd Annual Spin Slot Tournament: Oct. 28-29. No buy-in listed.

Las Vegas Hilton: Zodiac Fantasy, Oct 20 and Nov 10. $799 buy-in.

Bellagio: Million Dollar Mystery, Oct. 6- 8. $5,000 buy-in and limited to 150 players.

Ongoing Tournaments:

El Cortez: Daily, complimentary with hotel stay or 500 points earned.

Ellis Island: Tuesdays at 3 p.m. Free entry. Grand Prize: $20

Excalibur: Thursday through Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. $20 entry. Grand Prize: $1,000

Main Street Station: Daily, 11 a.m., noon, 2 and 3 p.m, $15 entry fee. Grand Prize: 50% of entry fees.

Silverton: Every Tuesday from 12 to 6 pm. Free entry. Grand Prize: Up to $2,500.